Chapter 86 – How Far We've Come
A/N: Thank you to DawnNimbus127b, TeamDamon22, SPN Mum, Huredhiel, Crowley'sMooseSquirrel'sAngel, IsabellaFaye11, ofmooseandmen, and twolittlewords for their reviews!
I can't believe it. We've finally reached the end, after two years exactly. I can't begin to thank you all enough for all of the support you've given me over the course of this story. This chapter is for you, my friends.
(There is explicit content in this chapter. For the full version of the scene, read the AO3 version of this chapter. Once again, the link is on my profile. An extended parting author's note will also be posted exclusively on AO3.)
The final injection was by far the hardest to give Crowley.
The demon was a mess, eyes glazed over with tears, whole body trembling. He was mostly catatonic now, slipping in and out of lucidity. Sam was kneeling in front of him, hands resting on the demon's knees, whispering quiet words of encouragement to him as Cas prepared the final dose.
"I hope to God this works," Dean muttered to Cas.
"It will," Cas reassured him. "And when it's done, Crowley will be happy. Truly happy."
"Here's hoping." He patted Cas's arm. "Go get 'em, tiger."
Cas went to Crowley. Gently, he tipped the King's head to the side. Crowley's eyes, briefly coherent, met Sam's.
"I'll miss feeling you," he whispered, voice hoarse.
Cas stuck in the needle. The demon's eyes shut tight. A scratching sound came from his throat, half growl and half whimper, like a wounded dog.
"The knife, Dean," Cas requested. Dean passed Cas Ruby's knife. The ex-angel opened up his hand, slicing open his hand with a wince. "Crowley... are you ready?"
Crowley's eyes were still closed. He nodded. Cas lowered his hand to the demon's mouth. "Drink," he murmured softly. Crowley opened his mouth and did as he was told. Cas began to chant the Latin incantation under his breath, "Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus hanc animam redintegra... lustratus... lustratus!"
Crowley's eyes glowed bright orange, the light shining through underneath his skin. For a brief second, Cas felt a horrible current of fear – what if I'm killing him – but almost as quickly as the light came, it flashed, and then faded. Crowley went limp, seeming to fall into unconsciousness.
He, Sam, and Dean were dead silent, watching the demon... or human... searching for some signs of life. Sam hesitantly checked his pulse.
"He's breathing. Pulse is thready," Sam provided.
"Let's get the little bastard out of here," Dean said. "Get him home."
Sam tilted his head in agreement. He leaned down, scooping Crowley up in his arms. The former King still didn't stir. Castiel departed briefly to get Aziraphale and Crowley's bags (mainly clothing for once he was human) from Crowley's Bentley. They would have to come back at some point for the vintage car.
Once Cas returned, cat in his arms, Dean cleared his throat.
"Claire," Dean called out. "You mind doing us a solid?"
"Yeah, but it better be a pretty quick solid." All three of them jumped at the abrupt sound of Claire's voice behind them.. "If what that Gabriel guy said is true, I've got about another five minutes of being an angel left."
"I thought you didn't buy that?" Dean said.
"I don't, not really, but just in case he's telling the truth, I don't want to zap myself somewhere and then get stuck," Claire explained. "You want the bunker?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah. Where are the others?"
"Bobby's with Kevin and his mom, making sure nothing happens to them. He warded the house against everything except... well, me." She frowned. "Oh, by the way, try to be nice to Kevin next time you talk to him– apparently his dead girlfriend got brought back too."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Sam commented as they approached Claire.
"Well, she got brought back to life, and then called Kevin to dump him, because apparently she doesn't want to date a guy who hangs around demons and gets their significant others killed."
"Technically the only demon he hangs around isn't a demon anymore," Dean said. Claire's eyes fixed on Crowley. She seemed worried.
"Is he alright?"
"Not really. But he will be... hopefully."
"He's human," Claire said, surprised. "I can see his soul. It's really bright, now."
"Yeah, I'm sure he's lit up like a damn Christmas tree. Can you get us out of here?"
"So demanding." She rolled her eyes in true teenager fashion. "I'll have to take you in trips." She grabbed Sam's shoulder and Crowley's wrist. They blinked out. A moment later, she returned for Dean and Cas. She fisted her hands in the fabric of their sleeves, then teleported them back to the bunker. Sam and a still unconcious Crowley were waiting for them in the foyer.
Cas set Aziraphale down on the ground once they'd regained their bearings. The cat wove its way through Cas's legs, then moved onto Dean. He sneezed.
"Fuckin' cat," he muttered, but he leaned down to pet the thing anyway.
"There you go," Claire said. "Now, I need to get back home–"
Claire broke off abruptly, eyes widening. She dropped to her knees, hands going to her throat.
"Shit," Dean cursed, and he dove down, sliding in next to her. Cas did the exact same. Dean held her up on one side, and Cas the other, fully supporting her as she wretched and choked.
"What's happening to her?" Cas asked, frantic. "Is Gabriel doing this to her?"
Before any of their questions could be answered, Claire coughed out a plume of bright white-blue energy. It swirled through the air, did a loop-de-loop, and then sailed up to the ceiling, eventually melting into it and disappearing from sight.
"Did she just get her wings clipped?" Dean wondered, shocked.
"I would say so," Castiel said. "She... she spat out Lailah's Grace."
"I guess when you're an archangel, there's not many things that you can't do," Sam said. "Come on. Let's go lay her down in one of the spare rooms."
Dean picked Claire up, and he brought her to the room next to Kevin's, placing Claire on the bed. Cas, seeming concerned as all hell, tucked her in. Maybe a little too tightly – the kid looked like a damn burrito – but Dean didn't have the heart to tell Cas to loosen it up a bit.
When they went back into the foyer, Sam wasn't holding Crowley. The demon (not demon?) was sitting at the table, resting his head on his arms.
"Hey, you're alive!" Dean said cheerfully. "How you feeling?"
Crowley groaned. "Old."
"Bones aching?" Dean asked.
"Tingly butt cheek?"
"Mhmm. And not the fun kind of tingly."
Been there, done that. He still remembered his brief stint as a ridiculously old man. "Welcome to middle-age, Crowley."
The former demon groaned again. "I'd tell you to go to Hell, but that's not really an option anymore."
Dean's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Gabriel dropped by before the big finish to let me know that Hell's shut down, permanent-like. If everything is going on-schedule, the Gates of both Heaven and Hell are being sealed as we speak."
"Seriously?" Sam exclaimed. "That's amazing, though. That's what we wanted, the night the angels fell. Everything just went really, really wrong."
"Yeah, well," Dean said. "We'll see how long it lasts. I'm betting it won't be too long before someone pops a lock."
"Always the pessimist," Crowley commented. He lifted his head, eyes blinking hazily. "Strange as it is to say it... I think I need to sleep."
"Let's get you in bed," Sam said, offering Crowley a hand and helping him out of his chair. The once-demon still seemed unsteady on his feet.
"About time," Crowley said with a faint smirk. Dean snorted.
"Sweet dreams, Crowley," he called as Sam escorted him down the hallway.
When they were gone, Dean turned to Cas.
Cas was watching him, eyes intent.
"It's over," Cas said slowly. "It's truly over. The angels are in Heaven. The demons are in Hell. The humans rule the Earth again."
"Best case scenarios all around," Dean commented. "For once."
"I believe this is what is commonly called a... happy ending," Cas said. "Are you happy, Dean?"
Dean thought about it. "Yeah, Cas... I think I am," he replied. "But I can think of something that might make me even happier."
"What is it?" Cas asked, tilting his head.
Dean nodded towards the hallway that held their bedrooms. "Come on. I'll show you."
Cas followed him. Dean kicked the door closed once they were in his room – their room.
"I meant what I said earlier," Dean said when it clicked shut. He and Cas only stood a few inches apart.
"So did I."
"So. Where's that put us?" Dean asked.
Cas smiled at him, something wistful... no. Something hopeful.
"I believe it puts us right here," the once-angel said. He leaned forward, his lips pressing lightly against Dean's. Dean breathed deeply. It was barely a kiss, but it felt right.
Cas pulled back far too soon for his liking. "I love you," Cas said again, and Dean felt like something tore in his chest. Every time Cas said it, it broke him a little bit more... but in a good way.
Dean realized that he didn't see Castiel as an angel anymore, didn't see him as a man, he just saw him as Cas. Cas, who he knew damn well he couldn't live without. Cas, who in spite of everything he'd done, Dean was still fiercely loyal to. Cas, who he could smell and hear breathing and why the hell was his heart beating so damn fast–
Before Dean even registered what he was doing, he grabbed handfuls of Cas's shirt and dragged him forward, their mouths meeting again. Cas's hands went to grip at Dean's face, and when Dean moved his lips against Cas's, he responded eagerly.
Cas tilted his head so they could deepen their kiss. Dean was lost, his senses filled with nothing but Cas's presence. God, why had he held back for so long? This was good, so good. He slipped his tongue into Cas's mouth, an the ex-angel let out a soft moan that sent a shiver up Dean's spine.
The tenderness evaporated fast, something stronger replacing it.
Dean bit Cas's lip, and fucking hell, Cas moaned, and then before Dean knew it he was shoving him down on their bed (damn right, their bed) and his tongue was in Cas's mouth again, and shit, he tasted good. They were gasping, both gasping, struggling for breath and not caring, and Dean was panting against Cas's neck and unceremoniously grinding down on his thigh, needing friction, needing pressure, needing more.
He didn't realize how much he'd been holding back until he finally had a chance to let it go.
Cas flipped them over, and he saw in his eyes the fury of the angel that had slaughtered demon after demon and pulled him kicking and screaming out of Hell, who had burned his handprint into his skin and marked him. He scissored his legs in between Dean's, and Cas was kissing him, kissing him hard, and Dean didn't know whether he'd picked it up from the pizza man or from Jimmy's memories or maybe Cas was just fucking good at it, but Cas was turning him on to the point of pain.
And then Cas was positioned a little too perfectly over Dean's crotch, and he was grinding down, thrusting with his hips, and Dean was halfway to seeing stars. Fighting for dominance, Dean pushed Cas back so he was sitting on his haunches, and he was attacking his jaw with his mouth, shoving his hands up the back of Cas's shirt, desperate to touch skin. And ha fucking ha, it was that red shirt that he told Cas to buy, 'cause chicks dig red.
Dudes dig red, too.
Dean decided he would dig it even more on the floor.
Once Cas was sans-shirt, Dean shoved him back down on the bed, hands sliding down Cas's chest, trying to remember every detail. He pressed the two of them together, rubbing, subtle thrusting, anything to get closer, to feel more. He licked and bit lightly at Cas's neck, causing the once-angel to arch up dramatically into him and groan in that deep rasp of his. Throwing all inhibitions to the wind, Dean reached down and cupped Cas through his frustratingly still present pants.
Cas's fingers dug into his back, and he practically whined.
I don't really know how to do this, Dean wanted to say.
"Cas," he panted out instead, mouth pressed against Cas's ear.
"Can we have sex? Like, right now?"
"I am very much alright with that."
Cas wasted no more time, quickly grabbing the bottom of Dean's t-shirt and tugging it up, up, over his head. He threw it to the side before pulling Dean back, their chests flush against one another. Their bodies rocked together, squeezing, both of them losing themselves in a fog of pleasure and pressure.
Dean grabbed Cas's waist band and ripped his pants off so fast it almost looked like a magic trick. Next thing he knew, he and Cas were wrestling around on the bed, and Cas was unbuttoning Dean's jeans, fumbling with the zipper, doing everything he could just to get him naked, all the while kissing the spot where his collar bone met his throat.
In the great battle of Castiel vs. Dean's pants, Cas won. Both of their boxers went next, and Dean should've felt exposed, should've felt fucking scared, because he was completely bare with another man, and that was not something Dean Goddamn Winchester did.
No. It's something Dean Goddamn Winchester does.
Sam's door shut quietly behind them. He watched Crowley, who was staring down at his hands, flexing them experimentally.
"How do you feel?" Sam asked softly.
"Weak," Crowley admitted. "But..." He narrowed his eyes, as if thinking hard about his next words. "But better," he decided.
"I still can't believe that you're human," Sam told him, taking a step closer to the former King.
"It's a whole new world, Moose," Crowley said, a faint flicker of a smile passing over his lips. "One I will appreciate in full tomorrow. Right now-"
"Sleep. Right." Sam reached for Crowley. He unknotted the demon's tie with deft fingers. Once it was off, he hung it on the doorknob.
Crowley looked at him with a raised eyebrow as Sam began unbuttoning his shirt. "Believe it or not, this isn't what I meant by sleep."
Sam laughed. "Get your mind out of the gutter. Most people don't sleep in full clothing, Crowley."
He finished with the buttons of Crowley's shirt. He laid it on top of his dresser. He undid Crowley's belt next. He had the demon kick off his shoes, and then removed his pants. When Crowley was in his boxers, Sam went to his bed, pulling back the covers for him.
"Do you want me to leave a light on?"
Crowley's eyes said something along the lines of, "Bitch, please."
Sam turned out the overhead light, shrouding them both in darkness. Crowley climbed into the bed, pulling the sheets and comforter over himself.
After a moment, he asked, "You going to join me?"
Sam nodded, but then realized Crowley couldn't see him. "Yeah." He undressed, leaving himself in his underwear. He slid in next to Crowley. The new human shifted, and from the ghost of breath on his cheek, he knew Crowley was facing him. Sam reached out, putting a hand on the side of Crowley's face.
"Want me to sing you a lullaby?" Sam joked.
Sam chuckled, leaning his forehead against Crowley's. "Hey," he said. "...Thank you."
"You'll have to be more specific. You have plenty of things to thank me for."
"For doing this. You... you gave up everything for me. No one but Dean's ever done that before."
"Your brother is my only real competition, then? I knew it."
Crowley sighed deeply. After a long moment, he said, "I didn't give up everything, Sam. I gained everything."
"Do you really feel like that?"
Crowley slid his hand around the back of Sam's neck, bringing him forward. They shared a soft, slow kiss. When he pulled away, Crowley whispered, "I will always feel like that."
Tangled up in each other's arms, they fell asleep not five minutes later.
Once they'd both managed to regain their breath, Cas laughed.
"What's so funny?" Dean murmured into the ex-angel's hair.
"Well, you told me once that you wouldn't let me die a virgin," Cas reminded him. "I didn't realize that you intended on taking matters into your own hands."
"If you want something done right..." He breathed deeply. They were quiet, for a time, just awash in each other's presence, in the afterglow. It felt right, what had happened between them.
It felt right, and it felt long overdue.
"Can I ask you something?" Dean asked at length.
"What did Gabriel really say to you?"
Cas hesitated to answer for so long, Dean wondered if he was going to respond at all. Just when Dean was about to drift off to sleep, Cas murmured, "He gave me a chance to go back."
"To Heaven," Cas clarified. "He gave me a chance to be an angel again."
Dean pulled up, shocked. "He gave you a chance to get your wings back, and you didn't take it?"
Cas's eyes met his. He reached over Dean, laying his hand over the scar on Dean's shoulder. An electric current ran through him, and he didn't know whether it was imagined, or if there still was that connection between the two of them, that reminder of the Grace Cas once had.
"No," he said firmly. "I didn't. What I have on Earth is far greater than what I could ever have in Heaven."
"Shit, man," Dean said, shaking his head. "I'm never gonna get what you see in me."
Cas moved his hand, carding it lovingly through Dean's hair. "I see a man who loves deeply. Who fights for what is right, who is unendingly brave, and unbelievably selfless. I see you."
Dean didn't know how to respond to that, so he just leaned his forehead against Cas's, letting his eyes slip shut.
"Thank you," he whispered. "For... for staying." That was all he'd ever needed from Cas, all these years. He just needed him to stay.
"I'll always stay with you," Cas murmured back.
Dean was the first to fall asleep.
Cas watched over him.
Dean woke early the next morning. He didn't know specifically what had stirred him from his sleep, but he suspected that Cas drooling on his chest was the most likely culprit. Try as he might, he just couldn't drift back off again.
He checked the time on his alarm clock. Ten past six. Maybe he would get up and make breakfast for everyone. True, he didn't know what food Crowley ate and what he didn't eat, but if the little bastard didn't like pancakes and bacon, that was his own damn problem.
Dean carefully extracted himself Cas's grip, trying not to jostle him as he climbed out of bed. Cas, predictably, didn't seem to notice. The apocalypse itself wouldn't be able to Cas up before he was ready.
Dean stood up, hearing his bones creak with the movement. He stretched, already missing Cas's warmth. His eyes fixed on Cas, who was sprawled out, stark naked, wrapped up in Dean's sheets.
Memories from the night before swept through Dean's mind, and he smiled. He tugged the comforter up over Cas, just in case Sam or Crowley decided to pop in before the former angel had a chance to wake up.
After pulling on a pair of boxers and an old Metallica t-shirt, Dean slipped out of his bedroom. He closed the door quietly behind him. He made his way down the hall, stopping briefly in front of Sam's room. Surreptitiously, he pressed an ear to the door. Soft, heavy breathing... and then snoring. The breathing was definitely Sam's. He could only assume that the snoring was coming from Crowley.
"Saw that coming a mile away," Dean muttered, continuing down the hall. He entered the foyer and took a deep, steadying breath. It had only been about a month since they lost the bunker, but it felt like it had been years.
The bunker was their home... the one they'd been searching for their whole lives. Now that they had it back, he wasn't going to give it up. Not for anything.
He had intended to go to the kitchen, but apparently his feet had other ideas. He went up the stairs, bypassing the exit and heading for the garage, a sneaking suspicion creeping into the pit of his gut.
"God answers all prayers, right?" he whispered to himself. He entered the garage, accompanied only by the sound of his own echoing footfalls. His eyes quickly scanned over the line up of cars in the Men of Letters' garage.
"Baby," he said, his voice hushed with a mixture of joy and awe. In between a World War II style motorbike and a '57 Chevy Nomad sat the Impala, completely unharmed and shining like it had just rolled off the assembly line an hour ago.
He went to his car, running his hand reverently from her trunk up to her hood, paying close attention, making sure she really was as mint as she appeared.
He pattered her hood. She was in perfect shape, by all appearances.
Dean tilted his head, looking to the garage's ceiling. "Alright... this, I'll thank You for. Whoever the hell You are."
He didn't receive any response, not that he expected any different.
Dean opened up the driver's side door and slid into his usual seat. He took a moment to just let the smell wash over him – leather, gunpowder and Sammy's aftershave... a sense of peace washed over him. He closed his eyes and smiled to himself.
"Mind some company?"
Dean's eyes opened. He leaned over and peered out the passenger's side window, meeting Sam's gaze.
"Someone's up early," Dean observed.
"At least I have pants on," Sam retorted, eyeing Dean's boxer-clad lower half.
"Shut up and get in," Dean said, unlocking the passenger side door. Sam climbed in. He was in his sleep clothes, sweat pants and a v-neck. He was unshaven, and his hair was a mess. Sam yawned loudly and rubbed his fists against his eyes. Dean grinned.
"What?" Sam asked as Dean revved the engine. God, he'd missed that sound so damn much.
"You always used to do that when you were a kid," Dean explained. "I'd get you up for school, and you'd get so friggin' excited – come on, what kind of kid likes school – and you'd hop up, get ready ten times faster than I ever did, and you would end up just standing by the motel room door, holding your backpack and yawning, rubbing your eyes, waiting for me to hurry my ass up."
Dean pulled out of the Impala's parking spot. He hit the button for the garage door. They cruised out into the misty autumn morning. The garage door shut behind them.
"You know how many times you made me late?" Sam asked. There was no venom in his words, so Dean laughed.
"That time they gave you detention for lates – that time in Everett – Dad made me go in and talk to your teacher, explain that it was my fault."
"They still gave me detention," Sam remembered.
"That's 'cause that teacher you had, Ms. Attenborough? She was a total bitch." Dean paused. "Kinda hot, though."
Sam made a face. "Dude."
"What? She was!"
Sam chuckled, shaking his head.
For about ten minutes, they just drove. Orange, red, and yellow ripped by on either side of them. Dean rolled down the windows, not minding the cold, wanting to taste the crisp, clean air.
"I can't believe it," Sam said eventually, breaking the comfortable, contemplative silence.
"Gonna have to specify," Dean told him. "There's a lot of shit in the past few days that's been unbelievable."
"Just... everything. We finally got it." Sam laughed, carding a hand through his wind-mussed hair. "After thirty plus years of literal and metaphorical Hell, we finally got our reward."
"Everybody lives," Dean said quietly. "Just this once, everybody lives."
"Everybody lives," Sam echoed. "I– I uh, realized something, though. Something we should probably talk about," he continued, sounding almost nervous.
"Yeah? What's that?"
"Heaven's locked up, Hell's Gates are shut probably permanently..." Sam pursed his lips briefly. "Dean... this could be our chance."
"Our chance to do what?" he asked, shooting his brother a confused look.
"To get out," Sam elaborated.
"What, you mean get out of hunting?"
Sam nodded slowly. "Do you remember, back when we were figuring out the trials, you said that– you said that me growing old, living a normal life, being happy, that was your happy ending," Sam said. "But what if we can both have that?"
"Sam..." Dean sighed.
"Heaven and Hell have been the source of pretty much all our problems for years. With both the angels and the demons out of the picture, the world's gonna settle down a lot."
"There's still monsters out there. Ghosts, vamps, werewolves, ghouls–"
"I know. But there are other hunters."
He wasn't wrong.
"Is this something you're really considering?" Dean asked after an uncomfortable pause.
"It's something... it's something I think we should consider. I mean, if ever there was an opportunity for us to start new lives, it's now... seeing as now we've actually got people to start new lives with."
"Can you really see me and Cas in the suburbs somewhere, playing Domestic Dan and Sally?"
Sam was quiet for a moment before saying, "About as much as I can see Crowley and I doing it. That's to say... not at all."
"So why are we even talking about this?"
"Because I feel like we should want this."
Dean glanced sideways, briefly meeting his brother's eyes. "Forget what you feel like we should want. What do you want, Sam? What do you really want?"
Sam sighed, eyes going distant. "I want... this." He gestured around them. "I want to hunt. I want to save people. I want to do what we've always done, just without the blood and the death." His eyes flicked around. Sam was thinking. "It's not that simple though, is it?"
"With us, it never is," Dean drummed his fingers on the wheel. "You still got that dream? Rebuilding the Men of Letters, changing hunting for good?"
"Alright, good." Dean's focus went back to the road. "Let's do that."
"Just like that, huh?" Sam seemed amused.
"Just like that," Dean confirmed.
"This won't be easy," Sam warned him.
Dean snorted. "Never stopped us before."
"Sane people would see the chance to run screaming from this job and take it."
"Well, no one's ever insulted us by calling us sane," Dean replied.
Sam smirked at that. "So, we're really gonna do this?"
Sam's smirk transformed into a genuine smile. "I'm glad."
"Blue skies all around," Dean said. "By the way, I know you didn't bother to ask for it, but yes, you have my blessing to... do whatever the hell it is you're doing with Crowley."
"Oh, I need your permission?" Sam raised one of his eyebrows. "Funny, you didn't ask me if you could date Cas."
"Who says I'm dating Cas?"
Sam bitch-faced him.
"Shut up." Blushing, Dean turned on the radio, catching an ELO song halfway through. "Okay, yeah. Me and Cas, we're a thing. You and Crowley, you're a thing."
They were quiet for several moments.
"We were straight a few months ago, weren't we? Or did I just imagine the decades of heterosexuality?" Dean questioned.
"I guess we're both a little more flexible in that area than we thought," Sam responded.
"No kidding... but like you said, it's good. The four of us, it works." He shot Sam a small grin. "Team Free Will. Ride or die."
"If you would've told me last May we'd be here now, looking at a world without angels and demons, I–"
"–would've probably been more distracted by the 'banging your arch nemesis' thing," Dean cut across him.
"Fair enough." Sam raised his hands. "Regardless... it's a long road ahead, but..." Sam scratched the back of his neck. "I couldn't pick better people to be going down the road with."
Dean flashed a smiled at him. "We better start heading back," he said. "We've got work to do."
Sam nodded his agreement. Dean turned the Impala around.
"Ooh, good song," Dean said, cranking the radio up.
"–on my wayward son,
There'll be peace when you are done,
Lay your weary head to rest...
Don't you cry no more."
(...but nothing ever really ends, does it?)